Earlier this year, we at Rock City Eats spent a week exploring and celebrating black-owned businesses in Central Arkansas’ food scene. It was a series we discussed, researched and wrote over several months with the goal of raising awareness for food businesses that just don’t get the attention they deserve. During that week, the response was overwhelmingly positive. However, there were a few people who didn’t understand why such a series was necessary. Nobody was upset we did it, but, as one person put it, “You’re trying too hard!”
We disagree for two reasons. First, from a statistical standpoint, it’s clear that black-owned businesses are not only a minority, but disproportionately so. The 2010 U.S. Census found that African-Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the population, but black people own only 3.3 percent of businesses in the United States. The same data showed that the average white-owned business more doubled the sales of the average black-owned business in the U.S. There are a number of reasons for the disparities that we won’t get into; the point is that it is inherently more difficult for black businesses to compete in their fields.
Then there’s the anecdotal reason. It’s not hard to see that we all tend to buy from businesses that serve customers who look like us. While it’s not usually a deliberate decision, it certainly happens. Next time you have dinner at your favorite spot, take a look around you and see how diverse or how monochrome your surroundings are. Most of the time, you are dining somewhere that you fit right in. And that’s understandable; most people don’t like sticking out like a sore thumb. But it does have some potentially dire consequences.
In 2010, whites made up 77 percent of the population in the state of Arkansas, while blacks made up just over 15 percent. This leads to a pretty clear conclusion: if whites aren’t helping support black-owned businesses in Arkansas, those businesses are going to have a much tougher time being successful. And the truth is that the needed support isn’t going to happen by itself. It will take deliberate action on everybody’s part to keep outstanding black-owned restaurants in business.
This is the week to do just that. Little Rock Black Restaurant Week starts today and runs through the weekend, shining the spotlight on black-owned restaurants pumping out delicious food on a daily basis. Each day this week has a theme. Many of the names below you’ll recognize from our series in February:
- Motown Monday: Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles
- Tasty Tuesday: Sims Bar-B-Que and Brewster’s
- Wing Wednesday: Chicken King and Chicken Wangs
- Soul Food Thursday: Lindsey’s Hospitality
- Food Truck Festival Friday: Black Food Truck Festival at The Food Truck Park @ Station 801
- Seafood Saturday: K. Hall and Sons Produce
Many of these places will be running specials every day this week, so be sure to check out their individual Facebook pages for more information. Whatever you do, keep black-owned restaurants like these in mind when you’re heading out to lunch or dinner this week. You’ll be doing our entire food scene a lot of good.
Here is our series on black-owned businesses that we ran in February: